NABOKV-L post 0024820, Thu, 21 Nov 2013 11:13:33 +0000

Re: QUERY: "Wodnaggen" in PF
Dear Maurice

"wodnaggen" has a double meaning - material and metaphorical.

"wod": adj. and noun: Old English
(1) = wood, woods, forest; wooden (2) = insane, furious, mad; madness, insanity etc.
The connection is unclear, but in early OE and medieval Romance texts, "wod" states of insanity, derangement & fury often occur in the wild of the woods.

"naggen": vb.: from Scand/Old Icelandic nagga = grumble etc.
mod. English incl. = nag, agitate, irritate, worry and fret.

Fret is of particular interest:

Fret = gnaw, nibble, worry, agitate. One frets with anxiety, but also a fret is a piece of decorative wood or metal, cut with a fretsaw into intricate, interlaced patterns called fretwork.

In his withering comments to lines 47-48*, Kinbote tells us that among the (comically mixed) features of the Goldsworth house are "carved gables", that is, roof gables inset with wooden panels of ornate fretwork. So "wodnaggen" meaning patterned woodwork describes the architectural ornaments of the house.**

However, the metaphorical/psychological dimension also gives us: nagged or fretted by madness. So in describing the house, Kinbote projects his own state of mind, although the extent of his insanity is not yet fully apparent, and only the re-reader could decode this meaning.
This passage, as many have noted, is full of similar hints and foreshadowings, but fretwork - interlaced patterns of fretting and madness - does seem apt for the work as a whole.


* Kinbote's description of the house: lines 47-8
" … it was widely admired in the neighborhood for its 'old-world spaciousness and graciousness.' Actually, it was an old, dismal, white-and-black, half-timbered house, of the type termed wodnaggen in my country, with carved gables, drafty bow windows and a so-called 'semi-noble' porch, surmounted by a hideous veranda."

** See google images for examples.This link shows both half-timbering and a carved gable

On 13 Nov 2013, at 03:49, "NABOKV-L, English" <nabokv-l@HOLYCROSS.EDU> wrote:

Dear List,

Neither Zimmer nor Boyd offered an annotation for the word "wodnaggen"
in Pale Fire (note to lines 47-48). Has anybody come up with an explanation
that I have missed.

Thank you for your help.

Maurice Couturier

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

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